Fire Scout unmanned helicopter readied for sea-based flight testing

Electronics aboard the MQ-8C Fire Scout autonomous unmanned helicopter are being tested in an electromagnetic environment prior to sea-based flight tests from a U.S. Navy ship.
By Richard Tomkins  |  May 5, 2014 at 4:54 PM
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SAN DIEGO, May 5 (UPI) -- Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8C Fire Scout is being tested on its ability to operate in an electromagnetic environment aboard U.S. Navy ships prior to deployment on ships.

The MQ-8C Fire Scout is an autonomous unmanned helicopter for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as well as for missions such as aerial fire support and targeting. It has a cruise speed of 110 knots, a combat radius of 110 nautical miles and an endurance of eight hours.

So-called Faraday cages on the aircraft are used to protect its sensitive electronic equipment from electromagnetic signal interference but must be verified before the system’s use.

"All Navy aircraft must go through electromagnetic interference testing to ensure they can operate safely in the ship environment," said Capt. Patrick Smith, Fire Scout program manager at Naval Air Systems Command. "We're confident that the design of the Faraday cages and other engineering work done on the MQ-8C Fire Scout will pass these tests."

Northrop said a new modular Faraday cage that protects electronic systems in flight was designed for the Fire Scout.

"Almost 95 percent of what makes up the MQ-8B variant is reused in the MQ-8C to save money and the time needed to conduct a test program,” George Vardoulakis, vice president, medium range tactical systems, Northrop Grumman. “However, we took advantage of lessons learned to incorporate a more modern shielding device in the new aircraft."

The Faraday cages were built by Summit Aviation in Somerset, Ky.

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